NYS Coastal Sea Levels Projected to Rise

A new report from Sea Level Rise Task Force predicts sea levels could rise more than four feet in New York State coastal areas over the next 70 years.

In its report, the Sea Level Task Force announced that New York Harbors has experienced a sea level increase of 15 inches within the past 150 years. Since the 1960s, harbor gauges have risen four to six inches.

According to the report, “sea level rise will have dramatic implications for New York’s coastal communities and their natural resources.” The report also said that sea level rise affecting the Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island is projected to be two to five inches by the 2020s, and 12 to 23 inches by the end of this century.

“However, rapid melt of land-based ice could double these projections in the next few decades, with a potential rise of up to 55 inches by the end of the century,” the report stated.

Sociology Chair Brian Obach said that although little can be done at this point to prevent at least some rise in sea level, “we can take action now to try to prevent further increases in the distant future, but what will happen in the next few decades is already in motion.”

The report also found that utilities and infrastructure systems which modern society relies on like sewage, stormwater, fuel storage and solid waste management and transportation make such areas vulnerable to rising sea levels.

“We have hundreds of miles of coast line and the Hudson River estuary which is also affected by sea level change,” said Obach. “Many of these areas are highly developed–like New York City and Long Island–which makes us especially vulnerable to rising sea levels and storm surges in coastal areas.”

Obach said there are many steps students can take in their personal lives to help prevent climate change, but the scale of the crisis New York faces is going to require more than personal lifestyle changes. Political action is required in order to change the policies that promote overconsumption and ecological destruction, he said.

“Anything that you can do to use less energy helps–turn off your computer when not in use, don’t leave lights on, walk or bike instead of driving, buy less crap that you don’t really need anyway, stop eating meat, recycle,” said Obach.

Recycling Coordinator Lauren Brois agreed with Obach and said taking steps to directly decrease the creation of unnecessary greenhouse gases or reducing one’s “carbon footprint,” which is the amount of greenhouse gases produced by individuals or groups will help prevent global climate change.

Brois said one way to do this is by recycling and using less.

“By reusing something many times you can save energy. For example, one reusable coffee cup takes less energy to make than many paper cups, and lessens the need to harvest trees for the paper,” said Brois. “Reduce: Use less stuff and save energy … Recycle: by purchasing recycled materials you can prevent the use of new materials, which need to be mined/harvested from the earth. Using recycled materials thus prevents ecosystem disruption.”

Although Obach recognizes that there are many groups on campus doing work to reduce ecological impact, he said those who are not striving to be part of the solution are part of the problem.

“This is a problem that will not go away and its impact will be devastating. It cannot be ignored,” he said. “Get involved.”